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Father's Day

06/13/02 12:00AM By Cheryl Hanna
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(Host) Commentator Cheryl Hanna reflects on home improvements and Father's Day.

(Hanna) I grew up in a two-bedroom bungalow just outside Detroit. For a tiny house, it always had a ton of problems, especially after my parents divorced. I was nine, and to be honest, I don't remember much about my biological father except that he wasn't at the bungalow much before the divorce, and he was never there afterwards.

I figured that fathers were only needed to fix things around the house because after the divorce, the bungalow had a break down, and my mom and my sister and I weren't the most handy gaggle of girls. So when the wiring went bad in the bathroom, we showered in the dark, and when the
front steps needed shoveling, we waited for Spring. Keep in mind that this was the late 1970's, and women like my mom were still trying to break into the job market. No one had time for ladies night at Home Depot. In fact, there was no Home Depot.

But, year after year, we managed. My mom got a job at Ford Motor Company, and my sister and I did well in school, and we chugged along, the three of us girls in our tiny two-bedroom bungalow with a black bathroom and slippery steps. A father wouldn't add much, or so I thought.

Then one day my mom brought home this guy. He was big and imposing, and a lot quieter than we all were. He would take my mom out for dinner, but best of all, he knew a lot about home improvement. He rewired the bathroom and remodeled the attic so that after thirteen years of sleeping with my little sister, I finally had my own room. The big guy didn't say much, but the bungalow got bigger and brighter and Spring came sooner, and we all laughed out loud.

To make a long love story fit three minutes: that summer, he and my mom flew to Vegas and got married at midnight in the Chapel of Love by a women minister wearing a bathrobe, and then the four of us packed-up the bungalow and moved into what felt like a mansion - in Brazil. The big guy was about to be transferred, and he said he would rather take a family south of the
equator than go alone. And we've all been together since.

It'll be twenty years this summer since my mom and the big guy married. All I can say is: We scored! I got my own room, and then got to live in Brazil, and my sister and I stopped worrying about my mom - not that we'd ever admit we were worried.

But most profoundly, the big guy loves all three of us, and there is nothing about him not to love. Sure, by law he's my stepfather, but he's really my Dad, because real dads, whether by birth, or marriage, or some other commitment, don't just fix things - they really improve homes.

This is Cheryl Hanna. Happy Father's Day.

Cheryl Hanna is a professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont.

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